To combat the growing problem of childhood obesity by promoting physical activity and health, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports hosts an annual competition to challenge students to be active 30 to 60 minutes for at least three days a week outside of PE class for one month.

On June 17, the council’s chairman Jake Steinfeld announced that Santa Barbara’s Cesar Chavez Dual Language Immersion Charter had been named a finalist in the 2009 Governor’s Challenge Competition. By having nearly 100 percent of its students successfully complete the challenge, Cesar Chavez joins three other regional schools and 91 schools statewide for consideration of the grand prize: a new fitness center valued at $100,000. With 249 students signed up and 10, 206 active days logged, Cesar Chavez is ranked first place in the region.

The school was able to log such high numbers by doing the challenge for several months, rather than the minimum of one. The school’s PE teacher, Lauren Macioce, tracked everything and had teachers and students record their active days in class to ensure the entire student body was participating.

Although the school has done the challenge in the past, they went at it this year with increased dedication and vigor. As part of this new focus, Macioce started several new fitness activities, such as a basketball team for second and third graders, a runner’s club, a cheerleading group, and a track team. Principle Eva M. Neuer told The Independent that Macioce got the kids as well as the teachers to participate, and have already received a $1,000 check from the Fitness Council in April.

In the Gold Coast region, which includes San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, the three other finalists are Hueneme High and Robert J. Frank Intermediate in Oxnard, and Lang Ranch Elementary in Thousand Oaks. Over the next couple of months, the council will review how the 92 finalists encouraged good nutrition and physical activity on their campus. Three schools will win the $100,000 fitness center grand prize. Additionally, one of the four Gold Coast schools will win the Regional Award and $5,000 for new physical activity equipment.

Fear not, taxpayers, sponsors such as the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, CVS Pharmacy, and General Mills provide the prize money for the competition. The Council on Physical Fitness and Sports is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that aims to promote physical activity and fitness without increasing the financial burden on California taxpayers.

This was a record year of participation for the governor’s challenge, with more than 339,000 participants recording over 5.8 million physically active days. In a press release, chairman Steinfeld was quoted as saying, “I want to congratulate everyone at Cesar Chavez Dual Language Charter for stepping up to make fitness a priority. Whether your school wins one of our top prizes or not, you’re already a Champion of Fitness in my book.”


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